BENTON HARBOR — Lake Michigan College’s new president starts next month with an initial goal to become well connected with the local business community.
Trevor Kubatzke views close ties with the business community as essential for any community college that’s a key trainer of talent for local employers. Kubatzke wants to begin building and strengthening those local connections as soon as he arrives the Benton Harbor-based Lake Michigan College.
He describes himself as a “collaborator” who is “student-focused and industry-focused.”
“Relationship-building through business and industry is vital,” Kubatzke said. “We can’t expect them just to knock on our door. We have to make sure that we’re out there and accessible to them so that when they’re thinking of putting another line in for a different product, we need to make sure we can provide them the operators or whatever they need.”
Kubatzke believes Lake Michigan College succeeds at that goal already. He cites as an example the college’s vintner program that trains students to work in the growing wine industry in Southwest Michigan.
Working with more than a dozen local wineries, the college formed and launched an associate degree in wine and viticulture technology in 2015, and last fall received a $1 million state grant to develop the Wine and Culinary Education Center at its Benton Harbor campus.
“They’re meeting that need,” Kubatzke said.
Kubatzke comes to the Berrien County community college from Wisconsin, where for five years he’s worked as vice president of student services at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Kubatzke previously spent five years at Delta College in Saginaw as vice president for student and educational services.
He sought the president’s position at Lake Michigan College because he wanted to return to Michigan and found an opportunity that matched well with his professional experience.
“My passion is the connection that a community college has in the community. That will continue to grow at the college,” Kubatzke said. “When you look at Lake Michigan College and the role it plays in the workforce of the county, it’s vital. I researched it and saw what was in the county, and I really saw the college being flexible and helping make sure the workforce is there for whatever is coming in.”
Selected from an initial field of 92 applicants, Kubatzke succeeds President Emeritus Robert Harrison, who plans to retire after nearly 18 years at Lake Michigan College. Harrison first retired in January 2016 and returned as president last May after trustees abruptly ousted his replacement, Jennifer Spielvogel, after just three months.
“Dr. Kubatzke brings a breadth and depth of experience to Lake Michigan College, and he has a sincere passion for student success,” said Michael Lindley, chair of Lake Michigan College’s board of trustees.
A Freeport, Ill. native who once worked as a police officer, Kubatzke has been in higher education for more than 20 years. He started at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa in 1995 and went on to leadership positions at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Ill.
Kubatzke holds a doctorate of philosophy in education administration focused on community college leadership from Walden University in Minneapolis, Minn.; a master’s in education administration from Missouri State; and a bachelor’s in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.